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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

I5o                            THE GAY GENIUS

himself to authorship, Chang Fangping gave himself to drink, while
Tungpo's own brother was wise enough to keep his mouth shut.
Tungpo was less tactful. It was just a question whether, when one
actually saw the people suffering, one should express his feelings regard-
less oŁ consequences for himself. Perhaps he never considered the
question. And so along with poems of delight and wonder at pastoral
beauty, he kept on writing about what was not so beautiful in the
countryside. The poet was either mad or terribly in earnest. He knew
that his lines travelled fast to the capital, and he did not care.

It would be interesting to take a close look at some of these lines
which, as time went along, accumulated in sufficient volume to convict
him of disrespect for the ruling regime. Taken separately, they were
merely occasional comments, but together they were impressive as a
collection of poetry of protest. A few examples will suffice. He wrote
in the simplest language of the horrible scenes of people conscripted^
to dredge a canal for salt boats. As an official supervising the work,
he saw the workmen gather together at the sounding of the horn at
dawn, and he said in so many words that "the men were like ducks
and pigs, splashing about in the mud".

On his trip to Fuyang, south-west of Hangchow, he wrote a fresh and
delightful poem on the clearing up of the sky, beginning as follows:

"The east wind knows that I am going home,
It stopped the sound of raindrops from the eaves.
The cloud-lined blue peaks lift their cotton caps,
And the morning sun hangs like a gong atop the trees."

But he could not help seeing things, and while he sang about how "the
spring brought flowers into every village", he also wrote about the food
of the farmers. They were eating bamboo shoots, and the bamboo
shoots were good, he said, but they were not salted, for "they have not
tasted salt for three months", because the government monopoly had
killed the salt trade. Once he let himself go, he could not help telling
how the young sons of the farmers took advantage of the farmers'
loans, borrowed the money, stayed in the city and spent it all, and
came home bringing no more than a city accent, for the government
was clever enough to open wine-shops and amusement places righfe
next to die loan bureaus.

On his trip north, near the Taihu Lake district, he saw his good
friend, the tall, bearded Sun Chueh. As a connoisseur of painting and
calligraphy, he wrote a piece on his friend's collection of famous hand-
writings; but in his poem he also said: "Alas, you and I stand alone in
this world, stuffing our ears and steeling our hearts against all current
affairs.** While he wrote a beautiful poem on the gushing current of